Directed by Andres Muschietti.
Starring Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Isabelle Nélisse, and Megan Charpentier.
Annabel and Lucas are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years.... but how alone were they?
"A ghost is an emotion bent out of shape, condemned to repeat itself time and time again."
Mama is the story of two little girls who are left alone in the woods on the day of their mother’s murder. Five years pass and the girls are found but due to their time alone have become feral and unresponsive. The girls are taken in by their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who, along with his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain), tries to offer them a loving family – but something’s not quite right; the girls keep referring to someone called Mama and it’s soon evident that they may not have been alone in the woods after all.
For a film advertised as a horror, Mama is surprisingly lacking in the scare department. Granted there are one or two jumps and the tone is a little creepy in parts but unfortunately that’s as scary as it gets. The main reason for this is that you’ve seen it all before. While the story has some quite interesting elements to it and a half decent ending, there is a distinct lack of originality in the set-pieces. Some sequences and ‘classic’ horror troupes are so commonplace nowadays that it’s almost as if the director had a checklist when making this film:
Children drawing creepy crayon pictures – check
Children with creepy smiles – check
Psychologist with hidden intentions – check
An animal that gets scared – check
Muted colour scheme – check
Characters turning round and the audience seeing the antagonist in the background – check
Even the music sounds like you’ve heard it before (oddly enough it sounds very similar to the score from The Nightmare Before Christmas) which leaves you a little bored and makes you wish for music that’s a little more engaging and original.
While the execution of the story may be severely underwhelming, there are one or two moments where you do pay attention, most notably during an excellently stylised dream sequence which gives you clues as to what’s really going on.
Further to this, the actors themselves do a terrific job with what they’re given, particularly Jessica Chastain as Annabel. From the offset, Annabel is quite an unlikeable character whose unmistakable aversion to children does give Mama an interesting starting dynamic. After having the two girls thrust upon her, we watch as Annabel evolves from a prickly and almost unloving woman to a slightly more emotive and caring character.
She is of course helped by the two young actresses playing the girls and special mention should go to them as they pull off quite difficult roles with seemingly relative ease. Their unblinking stares, body movement and creepy line delivery serve as one of the only reasons this film is at all sinister.
A big hindrance to this film though is the singular scare tactic that the film has and that is Mama herself. We see very small glimpses of her throughout and it works for a while but the more we see of her, the less scared of her we become. The problem with this is that, thanks to its overuse and a fairly shoddy design, we end up completely disaffected by any scare that can be produced by the film.
This film had lots of promise thanks to Guillermo del Toro being in the producers chair and there were some unique moments that either made you smile or shudder. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough on show to make this anything more than average.
“Daddy, look, there's a woman outside the window. And she's not touching the floor.”
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Ozzy Armstrong is a Stargate and Rocky superfan. Follow him on Twitter.